Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Distant Heart by Tracey Bateman

In the second book in the Westward Hearts trilogy, will the promise of a new life out west heal the scars of Toni's past?

This series tells the stories of three strong women as they struggle to survive on the rough wagon train and lose their hearts to unlikely heroes along the way/ Think Little House on the Prairie meets Francine River's Redeeming Love and you begin to get a sense of the riveting historical series that Tracey Bateman has created.

In this second installment, we follow Toni Rodden, a former prostitute who sought to escape her past and build a new life, and a new reputation, when she joined the wagon train. Despite much resentment and distrust from the other women, Toni has finally earned a place on the wagon train and found a surrogate family in Fannie Caldwell and her two siblings. For the first time in her life, Toni actually feels free.

But while Toni once harbored dreams that her new life might include a husband and family, she soon realizes the stigma that comes with her past is difficult to see beyond and that she'll never be truly loved or seen as worthy. As the trip out west begins to teach her to survive on her own, she resolves to make her own living as a seamstress when the train finally reaches Oregon.

But despite Toni's conviction that no man will be able to see beyond her marred past, Sam Two-feathers, the wagon scout and acting preacher for the train seems to know of a love that forgives sins and values much more than outward appearances. Will Sam have the confidence to declare his love? Will Toni be able to trust in a God that can forgive even the darkest past? Faith, love, and courage will be put to the test in Distant Heart.

Tracey Bateman is the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including Defiant Heart, the First in the Westward Hearts series. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and recently served on the board as President. She lives in Lebanon, Montana, with her husband and their four children.


I will preface my comments by saying that this is the first book I’ve ever read by Tracey Bateman. Her personal story is a wonderful testimony to God’s faithfulness and His ability to use a willing heart to accomplish great things. The popularity of her books speaks for itself. Phenomenal!

However, (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) this book was not my favorite. It was ok, but I couldn’t connect to these characters. I felt like the plot was predictable and the characters just didn’t feel realistic. Perhaps this book would have been more meaningful if I had read the first one in the series, but I can’t say for sure. The Oregon Trail and all of its heartache just didn’t ring true, and I’ve read other, more meaningful stories of a prostitute redeemed.

The book is well-written, and there are some scenes that I enjoyed (like the bathers getting trapped in the water by the bear), but overall, if I was rating Distant Heart on a one to five scale with five being the best, I’d probably give this book a three. Try it for yourself and see if you like it. You will be able to purchase your own copy in January, 2008. I would also encourage you to visit the author’s website here if you want to read a real testimony of what God can do in a person’s life when they are obedient to Him. Personally, I plan to check out Tracey’s contemporary fiction to see if I enjoy it better than her historical novels.

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